How to Clean Your Pet’s Ears

Everyone has at least one little thing that they absolutely love about their job and if you know someone in the medical field – it is usually something kind of gross. Seriously, I work with a couple of girls that love abscesses and warble maggots. For me, though… it is cleaning ears. There is just something completely satisfying about having a lot of debris in an ear and cleaning all the junk out of there. So, in honor of International Ear Care Day (March 3), this week’s blog is all about my favorite thing… cleaning ears.


If there is one thing all of my pets are very used to, it would be having people mess with their ears. I am constantly checking inside their ears and doing routine ear cleanings on them.  Although, the internal anatomy is still the same; an animal’s outer ear comes in all shapes, sizes and designs.  These ear flaps can cause different health issues. For example, animals with droopy ears like labs, cocker spaniels, bulldogs and bloodhounds are prone to develop bacteria and yeast infections in their ears. Moisture gets trapped inside the floppy ear and can’t escape, thus allowing yeast and bacteria to multiply inside. Dogs and cats that have access to the outdoors are susceptible to ear mites. To properly treat these ear problems, the ears have to be cleaned out properly. Because another function of ears is to help with balance, extremely dirty ears and inner ear infections can cause a loss of balance in your pet.


Even though dogs and cats are different in a lot of ways, cleaning their ears are very similar. To clean cats ears, I would recommend starting the procedure with wrapping them in a kitty burrito first.


Quick anatomy lesson – their ear canal is L-shaped. It is vertical towards the jaw and then makes a 45-degree turn horizontally towards the ear drum. I’m sure you have been warned before about using Q-tips in pet ears and as long as you are careful and can keep the pet from shaking their head, you should be able to use a Q-tip. But if you would feel safer by using cotton balls or gauze pads then by all means, do what makes you feel comfortable.


*Note: from here on out, when I refer to Q-tip, it can mean that or cotton balls, gauze pads, etc.


For cleaning out really dirty ears, I would apply the cleaner into the ear and massaging the liquid around to break up the debris – this makes it easier to get chunks out. Otherwise, spreading some ear cleaner directly on Q-tips will be enough to get the debris out.  **Do not stick the tip of the ear cleaner bottle deep into the ear canal – if you would accidentally leave go of the bottle while it is still deep in the canal it could suck in debris and contaminate the whole bottle.**


Once ear cleaner has been applied, use the Q-tip to clear away any debris that you can see. Make sure to get in all the folds of the ear. Repeat this step until debris can no longer be seen. Once the one ear is cleaned, you repeat these steps with the other ear.

If you have a dog that loves to play in the water, or a dog that gets regular baths, then you should make sure to clean their ears to lessen the chance of them getting an ear infection.


WORD OF CAUTION: We hear it a lot at the clinic… owners who have tried treating their pet’s ear issues at home with “natural” or homemade ear cleaning solutions. Ones with apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baby oil, rubbing alcohol, etc. But you should never try treating ear problems on your own with household products. First, treatments vary depending on what the ear issue is (ear mites, bacteria infection, yeast infection, etc.) – and using the wrong product is a waste of time, patience (for you and your pet) and money. Treating with the wrong or inefficient product can cause compound problems. Second, veterinary ear products are specifically designed for the natural PH level in a pet’s ears. Also, we (at the clinic) make sure the ear drum is not ruptured prior to any products being put in the ear. You can do a lot more damage to the health of your pet by putting products in a ruptured ear drum. You can do even more damage with products that are not meant to even go in ears.


Get the satisfying feeling of a job well done by learning the joys of cleaning ears.




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